Tucked away in a local warehouse sits millions of dollars worth of luxury and exotic cars all under the care of a Tulane University student. Welcome to The Motorsports Garage.
When 21-year-old Tulane University student and football player Michael George Lizanich II prepared to go back home to Scottsdale Arizona for the summer two years ago, he ran across a problem.
“There was nowhere I felt safe parking my car while I was gone,” says Lizanich, who drives a Porsche. Asking around, he found other students that had the same frustration. “There’s nowhere I’d consider safe, and nothing that was even covered,” he says.
A passionate entrepreneur who graduates in December with a bachelor’s degree in business management and a minor in legal studies, Lizanich found a niche to fill, and he has done just that — the first cars rolled into The Motorsports Garage this past February.
Housed in a nondescript 7,500-square-foot warehouse in Harahan, The Motorsports Garage is an automobile concierge service that offers motor enthusiasts a safe, secure, climate-controlled place to store their grown-up toys.
“About six months in, we’re already pretty full,” says Lizanich, who anticipates reaching full capacity at his current location with 50 cars in the near future and will be adding a second location — a 7,000-square-foot warehouse a few blocks away — hopefully by the beginning of 2017.
In addition to the cars of fellow students who are home for the summer or studying abroad, The Motorsports Garage is currently home to various classic automobiles, high-end sports cars and tricked out motorcycles.
Much more than just a secure place to park, the facility operates as more of a vehicular nanny — constantly attending to the needs of each car.
“Our custom packages start at $300 a month and that includes starting the car once a week, moving it every other week to avoid flat spots on the tires, installing a CTEK battery trickle and a monthly dry wash,” he says. “We also have an on-site mechanic.”
Catering to the luxury customer, Lizanich aims to please.
“When someone comes to pick up their car I make sure it’s all warmed up and ready to go,” he says. “I literally roll out a little red carpet for them and have a bottle of water for them in my hand.”
It’s clear that Lizanich is prepared to offer whatever it takes to keep clients happy.
“We can help with anything — deliver your vehicle to you at any place and time, help with buying or selling vehicles, arrange for transportation, prepare vehicles for auction or car shows and even coordinate repairs and maintenance. We had a Ferrari that recently had to go out for service and the owner’s mechanic is in Atlanta. We shipped the car, did all the communicating with the service advisor, paid for the service and shipped it back. We took care of everything for the client. They didn’t even have to think about it.”
The strong customer service focus means Lizanich is available to the business 24/7. While doing this interview, he was on call waiting for a special delivery — a 1967 Lamborghini Miura worth over $1 million.
“We’re going to house it here before we send it off to the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance,” he says. “We could get the call at any moment to come get it, so I’m always on standby.”
Businessman from Birth
The son of a real estate broker and investor and an interior designer — both business owners — Lizanich had a connection with cars long before he could drive one.
“I was a baby model in GM Magazine,” he says. “They took a picture of me sleeping in a car. Growing up too, my dad was always part owner of local car dealerships.”
In high school, Lizanich earned money buying and selling both candy and cars. When he arrived at Tulane on a football scholarship as a long snapper, Lizanich switched to running a dorm room cleaning service.
“It was great, actually, because the football players moved into the dorms before everyone else so I just went around putting fliers on all the mirrors. I started out doing all the cleaning myself and then ended up hiring a few friends to help as needed.”
Lizanich has always had an eye out for opportunity. “I’d go to The Boot — the local campus bar — right before they closed and buy up the last two pizzas,” he says. “And then when the bar closed, and everyone was still looking for a snack, I’d sell them for about $2.50 a slice.”
During the holidays, he offered airport rides to students for a fee. “I also dabbled in the stock market a bit,” he says.
The capital for The Motorsports Garage came from another side job — working as a jack of all trades at Pelican Coast Clothing.
Making the Right Connections
With some capital in hand, Lizanich created a business plan in order to try and raise money from investors for The Motorsports Garage.
“My friend set me up with a few meetings late last year but before I could even attend them I got an email from a local real estate developer — and fellow Tulane grad — Bret LeBreton,” he says. “He said he had a warehouse if I could fill it. After about four meetings we signed the partnership.”
Lizanich says LeBreton has been an invaluable resource. “He buys and sells high-end cars and is a real car expert. We were looking at a car once and trying to figure out what year it was built. He just looked at the manufacturer data on the taillight and figured it out. He really is incredible.”
Dream to Reality
Marketing The Motorsports Garage, Lizanich says, has been a little tricky.
“This is really a special niche kind of business where we purposefully kind of fly under the radar,” he says. “Due to the nature of what we do, security is a huge issue so we don’t have a big sign out front and you can’t find our address even searching online. We really are operating almost entirely by word of mouth. We have cars here that belong to a lot of prominent New Orleanians…Not the Bensons though,” he says, smiling. “Not yet.”
Patrons range from classic collectors to luxury car owners, including some of Lizanich’s fellow Tulane students.
When it comes to housing cars that can reach over $1 million in value, security is crucial.
“In addition to a nondescript exterior, we have brick on all four sides, a new roof and cameras and an alarm system,” he says. “There is typically someone here for 14 hours of the day and even the owners don’t have access to the facility.”
Insurance is also important. “We have garage keeper’s liability insurance that covers up to $250,000 per car,” he says. “For cars valued over that, the client is responsible for the difference.”
Around the Next Turn
Not yet a college graduate — he graduates in December — Lizanich is currently focused on growing his client base to finish filling up the warehouse and completing the interiors.
“Luckily, my mom is an interior designer so she’s been helping me a lot remotely,” he says, pointing to an unfinished kitchen and entryway where he says will soon be home to a table and comfortable seating area. “I’m going for kind of a sophisticated man cave feel.”
While business is going well, he says he’s anxious to improve the aesthetics of the warehouse space.
“I look at this and I see white walls, white ceiling, white floors,” he says. “Clean, clean, clean.”
Always looking to expand his offerings, Lizanich says a valet service may be next. “I’m thinking of doing something where if an owner is enjoying a nice meal somewhere they can call us and we will come and personally park their car and stay with it as basically a security detail until they finish their meal.”
Long term, he is thinking expansion. “I would eventually like to add a second location out of state or license the name out to others,” he says.
Not content to have just one successful enterprise, Lizanich is always focused on the next step.
“This is a way for me to earn a steady income through something where I don’t have to be here all the time,” he says. “Ultimately, the goal is to get into real estate developing like my father. This is a way for me to do that.”
The Motorsports Garage provides:
• Storage for anything with a motor in a climate-controlled, 24-hour secured facility
• Use of a CTEK battery trickle
• Regular starting and moving of vehicles
• Coordination of vehicle transportation, repairs and maintenance
• On-site mechanic
• Assistance with buying and selling vehicles
• Vehicle transportation
• Transportation to and from the facility
• Auction and car show preparation
• Other custom services available upon request
For more information, visit TheMotorsportsGarage.com